Photo by Håkan Dahlström Photography via Flickr Creative Commons, cropped (

SFI External Professor Jessica Trancik is terminating some pervasive myths about green transportation:

Green vehicles really aren't more expensive than conventional cars and trucks

Electric vehicles, in fact, go far enough on one battery charge for nearly all U.S. driving

In a study published this week in Environmental Science and Technology, her team finds that that low-emission cars aren't more expensive over their life cycles than conventional internal combustion vehicles on the market today. Her team released the results of their study in the form of an app, Carbon Counter, that prospective car and truck buyers can use to evaluate any of 125 vehicle types.

In a previous study published in August, Trancik and colleagues showed that electric vehicle ranges, how far an one can drive on a single battery charge, are sufficient for most drivers’ typical driving needs. This finding was widely touted as a counter-argument for “range anxiety,” the fear car buyers cite that they’ll be left stranded when their car’s electric battery dies miles from a charging station.

To meet the international emissions targets laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, companies—as well as individuals—consumers will need to purchase lower emitting vehicles in large numbers. Cars and small trucks account for 60 percent of the US transportation-related emissions (which in total make up 28 percent of the country’s emissions). 

“Low-carbon vehicles will only achieve a dominant market share if they are affordable to the majority of the driving population,” write the study’s authors. 

“Contrary to widespread beliefs, we find that consumers do not have to pay more for a low-carbon-emitting car, when considering lifecycle costs and emissions of 150 popular cars in the U.S,” says Trancik. In fact, the lowest-emitting cars are among the least expensive.

The technology to meet the Paris Agreement’s 2030 benchmark already exists for small vehicles; most hybrid and electric vehicles on the market already meet the 2030 emission standards. But the average emissions for new cars sold today is still more than 50 percent higher. And if we are to meet the more ambitious goals established for 2050, we’ll need not only an entirely electric fleet but also carbon-free sources of electricity.

Read the article on NPR (September 29, 2016)

Read the MIT News article (September 28, 2016)